One of the World Health Organization’s targets for 2023 is that an additional one billion people enjoy better health and wellbeing. The events of the last two years have required a transformation of the healthcare industry. Healthtech has evolved to propel these changes by including preventive care and wellbeing-centric innovation.
Digital health is progressing toward more focused design to guarantee no one is left behind when it comes to health. Healthtech innovation today can range from dealing with specific mental health conditions such as anxiety to health concerns women might be facing during menopause.
#1 Digital health tools for employees
Following the pandemic, Pew Research Center noted that key features of why employees left their jobs were the lack of opportunities as well as limitations of their employee benefits programs.
“After the beginning of the pandemic, the work culture drastically evolved,” says Ilona Bernotaite, chief people officer at Kilo Health. “Unfortunately, employee benefits have not transformed that much, even though employees today expect more from their workplace. Digital health tools can change that.”
Approximately $3.2 trillion of the U.S. economy is funneled into managing ill health. This is a huge portion of the productive potential of the country, which could help boost the economy. These staggering statistics should work as a prompt to revamp the employee benefits offered.
A first step would be incorporating hybrid work schedules, allowing employees to dictate how their time is spent. Gallup’s study recorded that 71 percent of working professionals experience an increased work-life balance through hybrid schedules.
Another key aspect is how innovation is developing more inclusive health policies, which accounted for a hybrid work schedule. This might mean onboarding accessible wellness apps and telehealth services within the benefits packages offered. Employees should also be given more flexibility with the benefits packages they choose, especially as health requirements vary, such as for employees with children, those with impairments, or members of the LGBTQ+ community.
#2 SpeechTech for children
The abilities of machine-learning protocols have seeped into several healthtech applications, and SpeechTech has benefited significantly from using machine-learning models.
“ChatGPT has shown to us how exactly machine learning can help with our daily tasks,” says Phil Bennet, director of engineering at Kilo Health. “And even though the technology is not perfect yet, it can already have multiple uses—from text generation to language learning.“
Machine-learning algorithms can transcribe children’s speech with 96 percent accuracy. Such technology can help tailor further innovation to improve language comprehension and use among children.
With the analysis of sufficient data, SpeechTech can eventually also identify speech and language disorders, which can then favor early management where required.
In addition to recognition, developments in speech technology also show promise with translation and conversion of speech-to-text, which can have applications for hearing-impaired children.
#3 Therapy apps for couples
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. divorce rate stands at 2.3 in every 1,000.
Marriages can experience periods of turmoil, as witnessed during the pandemic, directly contributing to marriage dissolution. Distress among couples is a known contributor to a reduction in emotional wellbeing and an increase in mental health concerns such as anxiety and depression.
Studies have indicated that steps couples take toward improving their relationships can produce positive results.
In this aspect, a recent surge has been observed in designing apps to help couples foster their connection. Therapy apps for couples follow the basic principles of communication to encourage couples to explore their relationships.
“It’s clear that patients are quite familiar with the telemedicine element of digital health,” says Kasparas Aleknavicius, M.D., medical advisor at DoFasting. “It’s a convenient way to get medical advice straight from the source. There are several other sides to preventative digital health a person can do, including using apps or wearable devices. ”
Many of these apps bank on the experience of psychologists to understand areas where couples might lack open and honest conversations. With frequent prompts, they encourage partners to perform acts of gratitude and invest quality time into their relationships.
#4 Habit-building parenting apps
With accessible information, parents can stay up to date when it comes to their children. From vaccination schedules to when they can expect the first word, tech-savvy parents have all the information at their fingertips.
It means they are also looking for usable resources that can facilitate the further development of their children.
Apps like Parent Cue are helping parents form effective communication channels with their children. Such apps have habit-forming prompts that can be followed daily by both parents and children to cultivate more meaningful relationships.
The Playfully app has more curated activities that help guide parents with specific activities for development during a child’s formative years.
Parenting in the tech era looks different for all families. Sometimes, it can make people feel lonely, but on the other hand, it can also create connections. Apps like Peanut encourage moms and moms-to-be to share their ideas on parenting and also join community discussions on what may seem like unique parenting roadblocks.
#5 Advancing women’s health
Femtech has been a buzzword ever since Clue’s founder Ida Tin used it to designate tech and innovative research used for women’s health.
Women’s health has so far been associated with either menstrual health or fertility. However, technological progress over the past few years has required more in-depth innovation for women’s health.
Studies have indicated the benefits of having specific mobile phone apps for dealing with postpartum depression (PPD). A key aspect this facilitated was constant care, with less likelihood of women dropping off from treatment. Health-specific tech innovations such as this can impact almost 20 percent of women who suffer from PPD.
Similarly, apps for women dealing with menopause will also see a rise. This is because while the need has been present, conversations around it have been scarce. Not only are women able to track their symptoms, but they will also be given access to communities where such discussions are a norm.
Digital contraception, sextech, osteoporosis, autoimmunity disease treatment, and pregnancy are other areas of femtech which will see more individual-centric innovation.
The aim of femtech innovation is to bridge the gender-health gap.
A focus for 2023 must essentially be the individual versus just healthcare as an industry. When design and invention stem from basic needs, everyone is included.